This recipe features two things I never used to do: apple desserts and pie. My husband loves apple desserts. Me? Not so much. In homemade baked goods, I swoon over blueberries, peaches, strawberries, and raspberries…give me cranberry or pumpkin. I will almost always choose apples last. When I was a kid, there was an exception: apple pies purchased as a fundraiser for a local catholic church in northwest Iowa: Ellendale. Those pies were a huge treat. My Mom didn’t like to make pie, so we didn’t get it often, and those apple pies were really good – often a Sunday dinner treat. I think that for me, I savored the crust and the ice cream so much more than the filling, but those pies were undeniably good.
I never was a big fan of applesauce when I was a child, either. It isn’t that I dislike apples. On the contrary, I love them fresh. Something about their crispness, their bright tart flavors, always seems to get ruined when they’re cooked. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some incredible apple butter that I couldn’t stop eating. I have since learned to make applesauce that is rich in flavor & tastes awesome all sorts of ways. But apple-related desserts still remain dubious to me.
So in our house, rare was the apple crisp when I could make strawberry rhubarb, peach, or blueberry. Rare is the baked apple when I can make a caramelized peach and smother it in honeyed yogurt. But my husband’s eyes almost instantly brighten when I say I’m making something featuring apples. And that alone makes me want to learn to prepare them in ways that capture their awesomeness.
About a year ago, I found myself at my parents’ house, needing to make a dessert for a family get-together featuring seared pork loin, sauteed kale & bacon, and roasted carrots. Apples are the perfect compliment to those flavors, and my parents had a drawer full of apples from the small orchard in the backyard of the farmhouse, so I decided to tackle apple pie for the first time.
Pie is something I didn’t learn from my mother. I’ve never really discovered why she doesn’t like to make pie. I never took a pie to the county fair in open class or 4-H competition. And to be honest, I was a little afraid of them. For my apple galettes, I went to Martha Stewart for a crust, because I trust her recipes implicitly, and I’ve watched her make her amazing Pâte brisée several times on her show. She makes it look so easy! The truth is, if you have a food processor, it is easy. The key is to keep everything ice cold. I cut up and freeze my butter about halfway so it really flakes off when mixing it, and I use ice water. The result is divine. Anytime I make a pie, this will be my go-to crust. I can’t imagine using anything else!
I was surprised by this experiment; I fell in love with these pies. I made them individual galettes that night, and though you could certainly do one large galette, I love the charm of getting your own individual dessert. Instead of looking for an apple pie filling recipe, I opted to slice my apples, arrange them prettily, and cover them with a spice & sugar mixture as well as sliced almonds. I love this dessert – I’ve made them several times since. My favorite thing about these galettes is that because you don’t have to cook them as long (about 30 minutes total) it seems to retain the shape of the apples. They don’t get mushy. They stay bright and tart. I love that the sugar-spice-nut mixture lends some crunch to the pie.
In my opinion, what can make a really good pie a truly memorable pie is the perfect ice cream. In honor of the season of caramel apples, I whipped up some delicious salted caramel ice cream to go along with the pie. I have failed more times trying to make caramel than I can recount here. Usually my caramel-making attempts end in the death of a reusable container in which I pour my incredibly hot and impossible sugar that has reached hard-ball stage without browning a bit. I end up boiling the pot with water just to get it hot enough to clean it. It is embarrassing and frustrating how much sugar and swear words have been spent on attempting caramel in my house! But I keep trying, anyway – I figured it had to come eventually. This recipe from The Kitchen McCabe saved me by teaching me not to stir my caramel and to heat my cream before adding it. The result was divine. I made a second batch to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke (and to have extra to eat)! Thank you, Kayley. You’ve changed my life. Besides adding this amazing salted caramel to my ice cream, I also put some in the bottom of each galette. Kayley’s ice cream recipe couldn’t be easier, either. It was a huge plus that this wasn’t a custard-based ice cream, and that it simply used cream and milk with the caramel, making it cool off much more quickly.
For these galettes, I used apples from my parents’ orchard. They were picked by my mother and nephew and delivered lovingly to Kansas City from Northwest Iowa when my parents visited last week. I don’t even know what kind of apples they are, but they are delicious.
I look forward to this recipe becoming a tradition in my house as the years go on. When harvest moons appear above and crisp leaves appear below my feet, the chill in the air can carry us to the orchard, where we can partake in what has been gifted to us in the form of this beautiful, tart fruit, both by eating them fresh and baking them into something lovely.
makes 6-8 (depending on how large you make the pies)
For the crust:
1 recipe of Martha Stewart’s Pâte brisée**
For the filling:
6-10 apples, sliced in 1/4 inch slices (see photographs)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp cardamom
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp mace
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds (or any nut of your choice)
1/3 cup salted caramel (recipe below)
Make pie dough and refrigerate for at least one hour. Mix sugars and spices in a small bowl, set aside.
When dough is cold, take it out and divide it into six to eight even pieces (I did six). On a lightly floured surface and using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. You may trim the rounds into perfect circles if you desire. I go for a more rustic look and do not trim my dough. Keep dough that you aren’t working with covered with a damp cloth. Once I have them all rolled out, I like to stack them with saran wrap between each piece and refrigerate them until they are cool again. This is optional, but the colder you keep your dough, the flakier your crust will be.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and coat a large cookie sheet with parchment. Slather 1-2 tablespoons of salted caramel in the middle of your round, and arrange sliced apples in a pinwheel pattern. Fold up edges of dough to cover apples. Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar mixture, top with almonds, and sprinkle on more brown sugar. Brush crust with water and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake galettes in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until crust is browned and centers are bubbling. If you’re making it gluten-free, the crusts will not brown as much!
Serve warm with dollops of salted caramel ice cream, topped with extra caramel.
**I also made a gluten-free version of this crust for some friends using Betty Crocker’s all-purpose rice flour gluten free blend. The dough was difficult to work with, but I am told that by adding some Xantham gum it would make it hold together better. My gluten free friends said it tasted amazing!
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
This recipe is amazing and easy, and can be found on the Kitchen McCabe website.